Day after day, Richard shows up to work. And day after day he works hard. He likes his work, he’s paid well, and he gets along well with coworkers. But Richard is considering looking for work elsewhere.
Because Richard doesn’t have a clue about what direction his company is heading.
Most everyone at Richard’s company is kept in the dark about corporate medium and long-term goals. He inquires on a regular basis, but on a regular basis he’s waived off, and his commitment is starting to wear thin.
Richard wants what most workers want—to understand how his work contributes to the big picture. Paul Johnson, of Panache and Systems LLC, writes, “Motivation depends on having a clear path to accomplishing a desired result. It's okay if every detail is not in place and a few variables exist, but the path to success must not be shrouded in fog.”
Joann Sujanski agrees. The author of six books on management, Sujanski says,
Continually communicate with your employees and state your expectations of them. Tell them what you want, what they did right, what you expect of them, and how you will measure their progress. Share the organizational vision and goals so employees understand the big picture. Realize that your team members want to know where the organization is going and how that direction affects their personal objectives.
The problem of not communicating the big picture is more universal than you might think. What’s the problem? Well, the following list identifies several roadblocks that prevent managers and leaders from communicating the big picture. This list is by no means complete, but should provide some food for thought:
Fear of Failure: If we communicate a strategic plan and it doesn’t work just the way we planned, we’ll look like we weren’t smart enough. Managers and leaders who lead their team to failures never get any respect. Better to not communicate than face that potential embarrassment.
Fear of Success: If we communicate a strategic plan and it all goes well, the competition will point their big guns at us. More demands will be placed on us, and we’ll have to spend all our time striving to stay ahead of the competition. Eventually, if we slip from the top slot, we’ll look like losers.
Complacency: We’re doing just fine with the status quo, so if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. No need to make changes – it would cause chaos and unrest. Just let the current strategy be our strategy. Don’t rock the boat!
Analysis Paralysis: So many options exist that we can’t choose the one we think is best for us. They’re all good options; each with pros and cons. And if we choose one, a better option may come along, but by then we’ll already be committed to a course of action. Let’s just keep analyzing until a “perfect” plan presents itself.
Space limitations prevent me from addressing each of these excuses head on, but one way to overcome these mental roadblocks is to examine the benefits of communicating strategic vision:
- People see where they fit in, feel more secure as a result, and increase their commitment levels.
- Increased commitment levels lead to higher levels of productivity … leading to more profits.
- Employees are more supportive of other departments’ roles, because they see how all the departments work together to achieve the common end. This means less inter-departmental friction—also known as more cooperation among teams!
I could go on, but I think you see the picture. And remember, the vision doesn’t need to be perfect. Like Paul Johnson says, “It's okay if every detail is not in place and a few variables exist, but the path to success must not be shrouded in fog.”
Bottom line, if you’re not communicating your company vision, you’re killing motivation (and lowering profits) in a big way.